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Indian accused in Pannun murder plot can be extradited to US, rules Czech court

Nikhil Gupta, an Indian, has been granted extradition to the United States by a Czech appeals court. The US accuses him of taking part in a botched attempt to kill terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Khalistani, on US soil.

Indian accused in Pannun murder plot can be extradited to US rules Czech court gcw
First Published Jan 20, 2024, 9:49 AM IST

The 52-year-old Indian man Nikhil Gupta's extradition to the US was authorised by a Czech appeals court. He had been accused by US federal prosecutors of collaborating with an Indian government official in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who lives in New York.

The final decision on Gupta's extradition rested with Justice Minister Pavel Blazek, as per a ministry spokesperson. The 52-year-old Indian national was arrested in the Czech Republic on June 30 at the request of the US, who accused him of being involved in the planning to kill Pannun.

Gupta is facing charges from US federal authorities related to murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, each of which carries a potential 10-year jail sentence.

According to the Czech news website Seznam Zprávy, Gupta's defence rests on a claim of mistaken identification, claiming he is not the person sought by US authorities and characterising the case as politically motivated.

The Prague High Court affirmed the lower court's decision to allow Gupta's extradition, despite Gupta's appeal against it in December, according to a report from Reuters.

According to a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, Justice Minister Pavel Blazek has the last word and will decide when all parties have received the court's ruling. The decision's timetable is yet unknown, though. The US Justice Department accused Gupta on November 20 for his alleged involvement in the murder plot.

US officials claim that Gupta had given an assassin $100,000 to carry out the murder, with a $15,000 down payment already received on June 9, 2023. But the person he reached out to recruit the hitman was really a confidential informant for US law enforcement. Declaring the accusations to be a "matter of concern" and going against "government policy," New Delhi has launched an extensive investigation into the claims.

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